May 13 2015
In my experience, you know you’re in a tick-infested Lyme-disease hotspot when you see deer fencing and this bird roaming nearby.
Deer fencing keeps deer out of the garden. This bird keep the ticks at bay.
Helmeted guineafowl eat insects, seeds and weeds and are best known (to me) for eating ticks. Studies have shown they make a significant dent in the tick population on lawns but don’t keep them in an urban or suburban area. Your neighbors will hate you.
Native to arid south and central Africa, helmeted guineafowl (Numida meleagris) have been kept as a source of food for thousands of years but they’ve never become as domesticated as chickens. They love to shout and roam.
They are great talkers who keep up a constant conversation with each other and shout warnings for every danger known to guineafowl. Unfortunately, once they get going they are loud and prolonged about dangers that don’t matter to us humans. Sometimes their shouting makes us laugh …
… but after a while the neighbors hate them, not only because they shout but because they refuse to stay at home.
Inveterate free-rangers, they will roost in trees and walk off to find better eating elsewhere. Gunieafowl advice columns warn to be prepared to lose them to foxes, coyotes, dogs and owls, especially if you try to keep them at home by clipping their wings. They want to visit the neighbors.
However, if you live in a remote place with lots of ticks they’re worth the effort.
I was naive the first time I saw a guineafowl roaming a front yard near New Jersey’s Belleplain State Forest. Back then, a decade ago, I had never been to a truly tick-infested place until I walked into that forest. About five years ago I noticed a guineafowl inside a deer fence in northern Jefferson County near the Clarion River and it too was a tick-infested hotspot. Oh my gosh!
So if you see this bird and deer fencing, pull your socks over your pant legs before you get out of the car!
You can’t miss noticing the guineafowl. He eats ticks and shouts.
(photo by Dick Daniels via Wikimedia Commons. Click on the image to see the original)